Brain microglial morphology relates to function, with ramified microglia surveying the micro-environment and amoeboid
microglia engulfing debris. One subgroup of microglia, rod microglia, have been observed in a number of pathological
conditions, however neither a function nor specific morphology has been defined. Historically, rod microglia have been
described intermittently as cells with a sausage-shaped soma and long, thin processes, which align adjacent to neurons.
More recently, our group has described rod microglia aligning end-to-end with one another to form trains adjacent to
neuronal processes. Confusion in the literature regarding rod microglia arises from some reports referring to the sausageshaped
cell body, while ignoring the spatial distribution of processes. Here, we systematically define the morphological
characteristics of rod microglia that form after diffuse brain injury in the rat, which differ morphologically from the spurious
rod microglia found in uninjured sham. Rod microglia in the diffuse-injured rat brain show a ratio of 1.7960.03 cell
length:cell width at day 1 post-injury, which increases to 3.3560.05 at day 7, compared to sham (1.1760.02). The soma
length:width differs only at day 7 post-injury (2.9260.07 length:width), compared to sham (2.4960.05). Further analysis
indicated that rod microglia may not elongate in cell length but rather narrow in cell width, and retract planar (side)
processes. These morphological characteristics serve as a tool for distinguishing rod microglia from other morphologies. The
function of rod microglia remains enigmatic; based on morphology we propose origins and functions for rod microglia after
acute neurological insult, which may provide biomarkers or therapeutic targets.